A Woman in Residence by Michelle Harrison, M.D. (1982, Hardcover)

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A Woman in Residence
A woman doctor describes the inhumane and inadequate treatment she observed during her residency in Obstetrics and Gynecology at a major American hospital.
by Michelle Harrison, M.D.
Publisher:  Random House
Copyright 1982
Book Club Edition

"A Woman in Residence will be the most read and most talked-about medical expose since books like Intern and The Making of a Surgeon," says Barbara Seaman of this illuminating, vividly written inside story about our gynecological and maternity care system.

Michelle Harrison, a young doctor whose specialty was in Family Practice, found herself called in with increasing frequency to attend home births.  Drawn to obstetrics, but feeling she was inadequately prepared, Dr. Harrison applied for and was granted a residency in OB/GYN at a major American hospital.  Her program was part-time to allow her time to take care of her young daughter, Heather.

A Woman in Residence is based upon diaries Dr. Harrison kept during this residency.  For this reason, the narrative has a reality and an accuracy for detail that make the reader feel that he or she is with the doctor examining patients or struggling to cope with the long hours and the lack of time to give good care either to the patients or to her own small child.

The book focuses us to reexamine our view of "simple" or "routine" surgery.  Because of Dr. Harrison's gift of language, we understand, as lay people have seldom had the opportunity to, the step-by-step procedures involved in a D&C or a tying of the tubes or a Caesarean section or the insertion of a fetal monitor.  For most readers, the clear explanation of these operations will be both a caution and a revelation.

Perhaps the most moving passages have to do with the birth process itself.  The hospital in which Dr. Harrison worked is a fairly progressive one and yet labor is routinely tampered with; women are told when to push and when to stop; episiotomy, the surgical cutting of the perineum, is routinely performed.  Women are given drugs that may interfere with the normal progression of labor and/or may endanger them or their children.  In contrast, we are allowed to watch Dr. Harrison deliver a baby by the natural methods in which she believes, where the woman is emotionally and physically supported by her partner and the doctor, where the perineum is stretched by massage so that cutting is often not necessary, where the woman is helped both to bear the pain and to help herself follow her body's signals and "deliver" her baby herself -- but into the waiting, helping hands of the attending physician or midwife.

A Woman in Residence describes the tension of the doctors and nurses, the undertreatment of the poor patients, the "overtreatment" of the middle class, the erratic behavior of many surgeons, the tremendous pressures on the medical staff, and the system's lack of accommodation to the special needs of women who are both physicians and mothers.

This is an intensely readable story of one woman's struggle to sustain her own identity and principles within the medical system.  At a time when more and more women are questioning the kind of gynecological care they are receiving, this eye-opening book will move a great many readers.

Condition:  Used.  Hardcover.  Dust cover.  Pages are tanned and darkening from age.  Previous owner's "Library Of" stamp is on the front endpaper.  Dust cover and flaps are tanned from age.  Dust cover shows a bit of edge wear and tear and creasing.


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